Becoming A More Creative Photographer

Tears for the Lost, La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina. An image of the Madonna shedding tears, with the ever encroaching urban sprawl in the background, at this beautiful and historic cemetery.

This post explores the spectacular La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I had a fantastic time exploring La Recoleta and made lots of interesting photos, many of which are quite surreal.

Abstraction Leads To More Creative Photos

I’m sure you’ll agree that Tears For The Lost is a fairly abstract image.

What I can assure you is that there’s no Photoshop hocus pocus going on, and any smoke and mirrors used to create the photo was achieved in camera.

 
Street Performer and Elderly Lady, San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Arge

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What Does It Take To Be Creative?

If you look at the photo it’s composed of several different elements, basically divided down the middle of the image.

The representation of the Madonna exists on a stained glass window, while the buildings in the background are actually behind me and just outside the boundaries of the cemetery.

To make the photo at the top of this post I simply moved in really close to the stained glass window and moved, left and right and up and down, until I was able to achieve a desirable composition.

It seemed critical that the image of the Madonna and the image of the apartments, which were reflected in the glass, be part of the final composition.

I’m sure I could wax on lyrically about the nature of creativity and what separates an artist from a professional or enthusiast photographer.

In reality the demarcation between these three groups is often somewhat blurred. But let’s simplify things so as to make the practice of creativity possible.

A very surreal photo that, via reflection, displays the face of Jesus in the sky above the magnificent La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Move Yourself And/Or Move The Subject

Photography is a physical endeavor.

So long as you’re moving you’re on the right track to making visually interesting images.

As you move around your subject the relationship they have with their environment will change.

In most cases that action will, from the camera’s point of view, result in them being lit from a different direction (e.g., front, side or back).

The subject’s relationship with the environment in which they’re depicted and the way they’re lit can have a huge impact on the success of your photo.

What Story Do You Want To Tell?

The more physical your approach the more likely you’ll be rewarded.

We limit our ability to tell a story by always bringing the camera up to our eye (e.g., 5 foot 3 inches above the ground).

Frankly, we’re often be better off bringing our eye up or down to where the camera needs to be to produce the desired result.

 

A dynamic view of a statue at La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentiina.

 

Get Up And Get Back Down Again

Consider photographing your subject from either a low or high angle of view.

A lower angle of view will help depict a stand of trees with the reverence and awe in which a child might view them.

Conversely, photographing down onto a subject (e.g., child or animal) can portray them as cute or vulnerable.

Take a look at the photo directly above. Notice how powerful I’ve made the statue of the angel by photographing from a worms eye angle of view.

By focusing carefully on the eye of the statue, that’s closest to the camera, and employing a very shallow Depth Of Field it’s easier for our gaze to move beyond the statue’s outstretched hand and onto its face.

A colorful detail of a candelabra inside a crypt at La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Great Photos Do More Than Record Reality

The point is that there’s the reality you’re faced with and then there’s how you respond to and choose to represent that reality.

Being alone in a forest could be a frightening experience for one person and a liberating and/or deeply spiritual experience for another.

The undeniable fact is that both individuals were present in the same forest.

But it’s their perception of that forest that determines their experience and, as a result, what they determine the reality of that place to be.

Understanding this concept can help free you from the fear that exploring a more creative approach to your photography will remove the scene or subject in question from reality.

In fact that’s the very purpose of art and the creative process.

Don't agree. Fine! Stop using wide-angle and telephoto focal lengths; polarizing filters and all manner of software applications.

What’s more you’d be better off putting you camera down, whether it be digital or film based, because photography clearly is not for you.

But I know that’s not who you are. Right?

Time To Get On With Your Own Creative Journey

If you’re interested in what you’ve seen and read here I’d invite you to explore more of my photos from this series in my Argentina Photography Collection.

It includes other photos from my visit to La Recoleta Cemetery as well as records of my adventures in the La Boca and San Telmo precincts of Buenos Aires.

In fact keep an eye on that collection as, over the next few weeks, it will more than double in size.

A dramatic black and white image of an angel and sky at La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Inspiration And Information, For The Road Ahead

To further your understanding of the creative process I strongly recommend my Photographing Cemeteries eBook.

At under $10 it’s an amazing resource.

Several years in the making this beautifully designed ebook showcases photos from the following places:

  • Australia

  • India

  • France

  • Russia

  • Austria

  • Greenland

  • Iceland

  • South Georgia Island (including Ernest Shackleton’s grave)

  • Argentina

In addition to stunning photography the ebook also contains a range of short essays covering the creative and technical decisions that underpin the making of these images.

While the book is richly illustrated with photography from cemeteries from around the world, it’s ultimately a guide to the creative process designed to help you find your own path in life.

That's right, I wrote it for you as much as I did for me.

There may be more interesting, diverse and informative photography eBooks out there. But I’ve yet to find one.

Why don’t you have a look and decide for yourself.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru